Why visible leadership matters

During LGBTQ+ history month, two deputy chief pharmacists tell us what visible leadership means to them

Rajiv Pandya, Deputy Chief Pharmacist Dudley & Walsall MH Trust

For me, leadership is about being able to be authentic and to allow my personality to be intrinsic to my leadership style. As a professional, feeling able to show the whole of my identity hasn’t always been easy and I have often struggled in terms of whether to be open about being a gay man in the workplace.  I’ve worked in a whole plethora of teams within the NHS and I found that how comfortable I felt about being open about my sexuality differed significantly depending on the organisation I worked in.

One of my most significant negative interactions was when working as a pharmacist visiting a GP surgery to support with their medicines optimisation work streams.

I remember the homophobic conversations in the room which made me feel uncomfortable and I remember almost feeling that I had recoiled into a shell of who I truly was. I remember feeling physically uncomfortable, which impacted on my interactions with the staff and my focus to carry out the task at hand.

On the other hand, the culture within my current organisation is very different. A culture of openness and equality and diversity is high up on the trust’s agenda.

I feel I am able to be my authentic self, which I believe brings richness to my leadership and helps me to establish meaningful professional relationships based on trust and mutual understanding.  Ultimately, I feel I work more effectively in my role which benefits my team and leads to better patient care. I feel empowered within my organisation and I have also taken on the role as chair of the trust’s LGBTQ+ committee, which comes at an exciting time as we begin to prepare our plans for Birmingham Pride.

I am likely to be one of many LGBTQ+ people who have had these experiences and this is why I believe visible diversity and inclusion within leadership is so important. We need more visible LGBTQ+ role models to ensure our workforce feels empowered and enabled to shine as their authentic selves as it will lead to increased confidence, motivation and ultimately positively impact the quality of care we provide to our patients.




Sam Malton, Deputy Chief Pharmacist, University Hospitals Derby & Burton

I work in a teaching hospital. I am also gay. I also have type 1 diabetes. I’ve also struggled with my mental health. Sounds a lot? Perhaps, but there’s not much I can do to change any of it. Instead I accept the challenges and do not allow them to hold me back.

I’ve had a varied and interesting career to date and leadership has been at the heart of it. I’ve watched leaders and their styles over the years and this has helped to develop my own leadership.  Interacting with leaders of other professions, with whom I work closely has also taught me a lot.

I can honestly say that being gay has never affected my career. My sexuality has always been accepted, from being a student, up to the present day. I was worried at university about the demographic of my peers being different to mine, but I was lucky to have a large and diverse friendship group. I’ve watched gay leaders in pharmacy with respect and really feel that sexuality has been a non-issue in my career.

In 2016 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes out of the blue. This led to a very difficult episode of anxiety and depression, having lived with anxiety all of my life. I felt like my career was over and could not imagine ever leaving the comfort of my role at the time. I knew that I wanted to be a leader and develop further – but could not see how I could ever do that.

Thanks to support from various leaders, I was able to get back to normal over a few months. I began to develop my leadership again and thanks to visible and honest leaders who showed interest in me, I took the next step in my career.

In all this I learned a valuable lesson that leaders are not perfect. They are human and have the same individual challenges as everyone else. I was surprised to learn how many leaders struggle with anxiety. It’s taught me that with the right mind set anything is possible. As a leader I can be confident and anxious at the same time. I can do my job and not worry about hypos, so long as I have sweets in my pocket. I can openly talk about my male fiancé and not be judged. I feel privileged to be in this position and to have had the same chances as everyone else.

Find out more about our work on Inclusion and Diversity

My experience at the RPS Mock Exam Event

by Alya Jassim, Pre-registration trainee 2020

The first day of the event started with an introduction to the course, outlining the important changes that we needed to be aware of, such as the updated de-regulation of medicines. The lecturer, Nadia Bukhari, was great at explaining information and giving lots of little hints and tips along the way. The pre-registration manual evidences were again put to light to ensure the topics were fully covered. We then moved on to calculations. There were quick-fire questions to get us warmed up and I liked how the calculations were categorised into 12 categories highlighting the possible questions that the exam could potentially ask, with slight variations. It made things much simpler. A reflection after each set of questions was particularly useful, as we had the opportunity to think about where we may have gone wrong in the calculation.

There were a few ice breaker sessions which opened conversations with other pre-registration trainees and proved great for networking opportunities. After the break, there was a very thorough clinical session about high risk drugs. The key points were again highlighted, and the speaker did a great job at challenging us to think at a deeper level, which gave me a very clear indication about how in-depth my revision needed to be.

After lunch we had another clinical session, however this was slightly more interactive, with a case study of a patient that had several commodities and risk factors. This was particularly useful as it allowed me to look at a case with a more holistic approach rather than look at one aspect. It gave us the opportunity to speak to other pre-registration trainees and discuss our answers. This was a very enjoyable session.

We then moved on to OTC treatments, another interactive session that I enjoyed. There were lots of example questions that could be asked in the assessment, which I used as guidance about what I should be looking out for when studying OTC medicines.

Day Two was the big day where the assessment took place. The assessment started after a very informative law and ethics lecture. The lecturer, Atif Shamim, gave lots of examples that really resonated and were very applicable to real life. I found it very helpful how the references to the MEP were highlighted on each slide.

Paper 1 was the hour-long calculations paper and then after lunch, we sat the second paper, which was the clinical paper. The feedback session was helpful, as I got to see where I was going wrong and what gaps I needed to address in my revision.

Overall, the experience I had at the event was extremely insightful. The information was well organised, the lecturers were very helpful and I found them greatly inspiring. I highly recommend the event for all pre-registration trainees, an absolute must!

If you’d like to find out more about the RPS Pre-Reg events taking place across the country, take a look at: https://www.rpharms.com/events/pre-registration-mock-exam-and-revision-course

Women in Science

By Dr Amira Guirguis

My entry into Science and Research was a long one as I initially trained and worked as an accountant. After becoming a mother, I decided that I wanted to help people from a healthcare perspective and I undertook the daunting task of training to be a Pharmacist in the UK. I say daunting because I was an Arabic/French speaker but I loved science. Becoming a Pharmacist – it was the best move I ever made! 

Working within community and hospital pharmacies taught me that building a rapport with patients can be magical and can significantly enhance overall patient outcomes.

During my career, I encountered patients chewing Khat claiming that it provides them with alertness and enhance their libido. I encountered patients who self-medicated with cannabis for pain relief. I was formally asked by coroners to comment on why death of a patient who has taken novel psychoactive substances, the so called “legal highs”, could not be prevented.

This failure prompted me to think that despite being an expert in medicines, my knowledge of these new emerging drugs and herbal supplements sold over the internet was limited. So I undertook a PhD in Pharmacy and began my career in Academia at the University of Hertfordshire and now as MPharm Programme Director at the new Pharmacy degree in Swansea which is now being provisionally accredited.

Through my research, I have taken the initiative to a new concept, providing insight among pharmacists and other healthcare professionals in the dynamic area of substance misuse and Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS). My research focussed on how to identify these drugs to inform clinical decision-making and prevent pre-mature deaths.

I believe I represent the many women who try to balance the Research/Teaching careers as well as being a single mother. I do get a buzz from publishing my research from my group and international collaborations, even more so, when you can see your research shaping policy not only in the UK but other countries such as Australia!

I would like to feel that I can be a role model for many women in academia and one which many women can relate to, and in that perspective, I am also a mentor at Swansea University and RPS, mentoring 3 undergraduate students and 3 pre-registration pharmacists so that they can learn from my experiences in pharmacy.   

As I write this blog, I am preparing for a visit to the Middle East where I will be talking to school children about pharmacy and the varied career opportunities for pharmacists – I am really excited to be given this opportunity as I feel many children would choose pharmacy if they had the opportunity to meet pharmacists earlier on in their educational journey.

I think my enthusiasm for pharmacy is infectious as my daughter has become a fully qualified pharmacist and works in hospital pharmacy – may be it is in our genes, but for me it took a little longer to express itself!

A Reflection On The RPS Pre-Registration January 2020 Mock Exam Event

Pardis Amin-Eshghi

Your Pre-Reg year is a tough one, no question: finally putting all of your hard-earned knowledge to work in the real world. And you still have your Pre-Reg exams to pass at the end of it!

Fortunately, the RPS offers events across the country to ensure you get into practice with a minimum of sleepless nights!

These interactive sessions look at real-life examples to help you pass your exams and be ready for practice. They’re an invaluable opportunity to identify your strengths and weaknesses, highlighting key areas to focus your revision on.

At every event you’ll hear from experienced tutors with top tips, both for exams and challenging practice situations. You’ll also get to know fellow Pre-Reg pharmacists, as well as recruiters looking for their next generation of top pharmacists. We spoke to RPS member Pardis Amin-Eshghi, who told us all about her experience of the two-day event in London.

“I heard about the upcoming RPS event from my tutor, swiftly booked my place and then attended a weekend of intense, focused learning on how to pass my pre-registration exam in order to become a qualified pharmacist.

When it comes down to how to prepare, neither the tutors nor the GPhC recommend making your revision an exercise on how much one can memorise from the resource materials (and there is a lot to memorise). It’s more about how well one can apply that knowledge to the everyday scenarios found in practice, whether it be in hospital or community pharmacy.

The Pre-Reg event is split into two days.  Day 1 revolves around clinical lectures, case studies, calculations, and (my personal favourite) OTC. During the sessions, it was great to have the opportunity to bounce off ideas and then network with the other pre-reg’s. In addition to this, the calculation section (hosted by Simon Harris) involved going through all 12 types of pharmaceutical calculation questions listed in the framework – all in a succinct, step-by-step manner.

Being a big clinical buff, one of the highlights of the event was a clinical lecture hosted by Nadia Bukhari (who’s also the series managing editor of ‘Pharmacy Registration Assessment Questions’, a series that has been a staple in my exam practice). I was enthralled by the way the subject matter was taught, with the key take-home message being that this exam is checking our depth in knowledge. When tackling a scenario, ask yourself, e.g. “Why should a patient be on this medication?”, “Why does this medication cause this side effect?”, “What is the result of this interaction?”, “What other medications should this patient be on?” etc.

Day 2 commenced with an interactive session on Law & Ethics, with the main event being the mock paper (done under strict exam conditions, reflective of the actual day), with the questions representative of the style of questions provided by the GPhC. Once both papers were complete, they went through the answers and the rationale behind them. In the end, we got to take the paper/ resource packs home to go over again, along with our booklet of the slides used throughout the event. Overall, I found these events to be pivotal for the learning and development of any pre-reg that’s on the final hurdle to qualify as a day 1 pharmacist.”

If you’d like to take some of the pain out of your Pre-Reg and boost your chances of passing, there are RPS Pre-Reg events across the country – find out more at :https://www.rpharms.com/events/pre-registration-mock-exam-and-revision-courses